One of the most fundamental elements of a manager’s job is maximizing the return—in the form of work output—from the portion of the company’s investment he or she is assigned to manage. This means that striving for efficiency and doing more with less are essential to a manager’s skill set. One of the best ways to eliminate wasted time and effort is to periodically evaluate unnecessary uses of time.
While the dramatic changes to the traditional work rhythm brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic have created a number of logistical challenges, they also provide some opportunities for improved efficiency.
One of these opportunities is the ability to eliminate or reduce unnecessary or low-value work. In this post, we discuss some steps to take advantage of the COVID-19-induced shake-up to achieve long-term efficiencies.
Step 1. Identify work that has been tabled due to COVID. A large-scale shift to remote work means that many routine activities have been at least temporarily tabled. This might include recurring meetings, reports, and travel, for example. Make a list of these activities for evaluation.
Step 2. Determine what, if any, impact the organization has seen from not performing those tasks. Once you have a list of tasks that have been sidelined, take a look at them, and determine what, if any, impact their absence has made on the company. This could be both positive and negative. Obviously, you would expect less time to be spent on those activities, which is a positive. But are there negatives, as well?
For example, are staff lacking direction in the absence of a recurring meeting? Are customer relationships being hurt in the absence of in-person meetings and travel?
Step 3. Determine if there will be a long-term impact. Most companies have a few months of COVID-19-based changes in place at this point, but that isn’t necessarily enough to predict the long-term impacts of some of those changes.
For example, in-person meetings with customers may have to be delayed for now, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t still value in those meetings in general. Conversely, a company might find that a department-wide, recurring Monday morning meeting might not be as valuable as previously thought, and the company can give employees an hour of their week back.
Step 4. Update tasks and processes accordingly. Based on the evaluation from the steps above, companies can update their processes to eliminate waste. As with any process update, this should be an iterative process, with tweaks and modifications based on ongoing experience.
Any change comes with both challenges and opportunities. The COVID-19 pandemic has created some huge challenges, but businesses are also finding plenty of opportunities for growth and process improvement. Eliminating low-value-add activities is one of the many ways companies can capitalize on those opportunities.